Tag: Bryan Price

votto getty

2015 Preview: Cincinnati Reds


Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2015 season. Next up: The Cincinnati Reds.

The Big Question: Is the fun over in Cincy?

The Reds won a 36-year-high 97 games in 2012 and they finished with 90 wins in 2013, but a combination of key injuries and poor individual performances led the club to a disappointing 76-86 record and fourth-place finish in the National League Central in 2014.

And there isn’t a ton of reason for optimism in 2015.

Joey Votto is fully recovered from his distal quad strain, Jay Bruce is capable of a bounceback, and young speedster Billy Hamilton should take a step forward offensively after batting just .250/.292/.355 in 611 plate appearances as a rookie, but the Reds don’t appear to have the kind of well-rounded major league roster that will allow them to seriously compete in a division that suddenly looks like the deepest in all of baseball.

The rotation is in pretty rough waters, for the upcoming season and especially long term. Homer Bailey had an underwhelming 3.71 ERA (97 ERA+) over 145 2/3 innings last year — the first year of a six-year, $105 million contract — and he will open the 2015 campaign on a minor league rehab assignment following September surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon in his right elbow. Taking his place will be 36-year-old righty Jason Marquis, who didn’t make an appearance at the major league level in 2014. Mat Latos was shipped off to the Marlins in December because he had one year left on his contract and the Reds knew they weren’t going to be able to lock him up to a long-term deal. Extension talks don’t seem to be trending in a positive direction with Johnny Cueto, who is among the best starters in baseball but could very well be leaving Cincinnati for good next offseason. Tony Cingrani was shifted to the bullpen in a curious spring training decision so that Raisel Iglesias — an unproven Cuban right-hander — can slide into the starting corps. Iglesias pitched almost exclusively in relief in Serie Nacional. He gave up six runs to the Brewers in his latest Cactus League start.

Mike Leake is solid, and Anthony DeSclafani — part of the return package for Latos — carries some upside at age 24. But there are a whole lot of question marks surrounding this group and that’s an ominous situation for a team that plays 81 games per year in one of the least pitcher-friendly stadiums in Major League Baseball.

Cincinnati’s bullpen doesn’t offer anything inspiring beyond its flame-throwing closer and 22-year-old top pitching prospect Robert Stephenson probably won’t be ready for his MLB debut until the second half. Maybe the Reds can slug their way into contention, but here’s guessing that won’t work in the NL Central in 2015.

What else is going on?

  • The lineup does have a nice mix of dynamic offensive contributors. Todd Frazier finished in a tie with Josh Donaldson for the most home runs by a third baseman (29) last season and he led all major league third basemen in stolen bases with 20. Young catcher Devin Mesoraco was one of Major League Baseball’s breakout stars in 2014, producing an .893 OPS (149 OPS+) with 25 home runs and 80 RBI in 114 games. Offseason addition Marlon Byrd collected 25 home runs and 85 RBI in 154 games with the Phillies last summer. Votto, Bruce, and Hamilton — as mentioned above — should all be very good.
  • Aroldis Chapman has been a steal so far for Cincinnati, boasting a 2.32 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, and 430 strikeouts in 252 2/3 innings over the first five years of the six-year, $30 million deal that he signed after defecting from his native Cuba in 2010. But he opted into arbitration this winter and settled with the Reds at $8.05 million. He gets one more year of arbitration in 2016 and can then become a free agent. Will the Reds consider trading him after they get done hosting the 2015 All-Star Game festivities?
  • Brandon Phillips has registered a weak .714 OPS (95 OPS+) in 419 games since signing a six-year, $72.5 million contract extension with the Reds at the beginning of the 2012 season. He was praised for his clutch hitting ability after tallying 103 RBI in 2013, but analytical baseball people knew that lofty total was more the product of Votto and former Reds leadoff man Shin-Soo Choo. Phillips finished with just 51 RBI in 2014 and he slugged just eight home runs — an 11-year low. Yet the veteran second baseman is still being penciled in as the Reds’ No. 3 hitter behind Hamilton and Votto by manager Bryan Price.

Prediction: A potent offense but messy pitching leaves the Reds with 81 wins and a last-place finish in a loaded National League Central. Go ahead and pencil them in for a last-place finish in 2016 as well.

Raisel Iglesias and Jason Marquis are in the Reds’ rotation, Paul Maholm is out

jason marquis getty

Earlier this week the Reds announced that they’re shifting Tony Cingrani to the bullpen–against the left-hander’s wishes–and today they announced that both Raisel Iglesias and Jason Marquis will have spots in the Opening Day rotation.

Iglesias was signed out of Cuba for $27 million last year, but at the time many people viewed him as more likely to be a reliever in the majors. However, he’s impressed manager Bryan Price with eight scoreless innings this spring.

Marquis is a 36-year-old veteran of 14 seasons for eight different teams, but didn’t pitch in the majors at all last year following Tommy John elbow surgery. Before his elbow gave out Marquis pitched reasonably well for the Padres in 2012 and 2013, but he hasn’t posted an ERA below 4.00 since way back in 2004. He’s probably just keeping the spot warm until Homer Bailey is healthy.

Also of note: Cincinnati informed left-hander Paul Maholm that he’s now competing for a bullpen spot, which could mean he’ll opt out of his minor-league contract in the hopes some other team still views him as a potential starter.

Devin Mesoraco cleared for baseball activities Wednesday following “minor” concussion

devin mesoraco getty

Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco was diagnosed with a “minor” concussion after taking a foul tip off his mask Saturday in a Cactus League game. It’s always odd when a team labels any brain injury as “minor,” but this one does seem to be on the less-severe side.

MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon reports that Mesoraco was cleared to resume baseball activities Wednesday in Reds camp. “He’s already in the cage hitting,” Reds manager Bryan Price told reporters Wednesday morning. “He’ll go out there and throw (as well).”

Mesoraco should be ready for more Cactus League action in about a week and he is fully expected to be ready for Opening Day. The 26-year-old hit .273/.359/.534 with 25 homers and 80 RBI in 114 games last season.

Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco has a “minor” concussion

Devin Mesoraco, Marlon Byrd

Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco took a foul top off the mask Saturday and has been diagnosed with what the team is calling a “minor” concussion (also known as a “minor” brain injury).

Mesoraco told Mark Sheldon of MLB.com that he “doesn’t feel too bad when he’s not doing anything.” Which is another way of saying he does feel bad when he is doing something, of course.

Mesoraco signed a four-year, $28 million deal with the Reds in January and manager Bryan Price quickly said he plans to ride the 26-year-old catcher into the ground this season by starting him 145 times behind the plate.

Reds are planning to run Devin Mesoraco into the ground

Devin Mesoraco, Marlon Byrd

Cincinnati just signed catcher Devin Mesoraco to a four-year, $28 million contract and now apparently the Reds are going to run him into the ground.

Reds manager Bryan Price told Hal McCoy of the Dayton Daily News that he wants Mesoraco behind the plate for nearly every game:

I see him as a Yadier Moilina-type guy who is going to catch 145 games a year, more so than I see him catching 110 a year and playing 20 or 30 at first base. … I anticipate Mesoraco catching a lot more games this year, especially if he stays healthy.

Mesoraco started a career-high 104 games at catcher last season.

In terms of Price’s quote/plan, it should be noted that Yadier Molina has never actually started 145 games at catcher in a season. Or even 140. He’s only started more than 135 games once, in 2009. It should also be noted that Salvador Perez, Jason Kendall, and Russell Martin are the only catchers in the past decade to start 145 or more games in a season.

And there’s a reason why so few catchers do so: They either can’t handle that big of a workload physically, breaking down before they can start that many games. Or their teams recognize what would probably happen if they asked them to start 145 games and decide against it.

Good luck, Devin.